Possible spoilers ahead!
“The Shape of Water,” is the story of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins). Eliza is a mute young woman working nights as a janitor at the Occam Aerospace Research Center in early 1960s Baltimore alongside her talkative friend Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). In her spare time, Elisa enjoys watching old musicals with her friend and neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins).
Elisa lives a pretty quiet but happy life, but everything changes forever when the facility she works at brings in a strange specimen, dubbed the Asset (Doug Jones). In charge of the operation is Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), and studying the Asset is Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Elisa is curious about the strange creature, and she attempts to befriend the Asset by bringing him hard-boiled eggs, playing music, and teaching him sign language. She quickly grows attached to the creature and when she learns that Strickland and his superior, General Hoyt (Nick Searcy), have decided to disect the Asset, she plots a way of helping the amphibious man escape the facility.
To pull off her plan, Eliza enlists the help of Zelda and Giles, and that of Dr. Hoffstetler. Once freed, Elisa and the creature grow closer as she falls in love with him, all the while planning on when and how to release him back to the sea. But Colonel Strickland is on the hunt to find and destroy the Asset, and those who helped Eliza free the creature, now find themselves in danger as well.
I finally had the chance to see “The Shape of Water” a couple of weeks after it won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. I knew there was a good chance that I would like the movie because I’m a fan of director Guillermo del Toro’s work. But I have to say this movie still managed to surprise me over and over.
Because this was a Guillermo del Toro movie, I was expecting a sci-fi/horror film, but as it turns out, “The Shape of Water” is a beautiful blend of a fairy tale romance, and a 1950’s monster movie like “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” There is still a sci-fi element of course. But make no mistake about it: “The Shape of Water” is a love story.
Another cool thing was the theme of water throughout, and the amphibious creature, both of which gave the film some compelling visuals. The cinematography in “The Shape of Water” does an incredible job with water and light effects that make everything simple stunning to look at. This is also helped by the classic look of the sets, and 1960’s style costumes. Add in some excellent visual effects on the sea creature, and del Toro’s masterpiece comes to life with a great deal of believability.
As for the performances, “The Shape of Water” is Sally Hawkins’ movie, and without a doubt, her best work to date. With her gestures, facial expressions, and emotions, the actress gave a compelling depiction of a lonely woman who has never felt whole or normal in her entire life. But Hawkins also gives the role and great deal of hope, so that when she finds love with creature, we get it.
Hawkins is terrific in the more dramatic parts of the film, especially towards the end. But my favorite moments of her performance were the more humorous scenes. In particular, when Hawkins played opposite Octavia Spencer. Once scene that comes to mind is when Octavia Spencer finds out Hawkins and the creature got “close.” Hawkins signs all you need to know, and Spencer’s reaction is just priceless.
Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins are delightful as Elisa’s friends and allies. Spencer is usually the voice or reason, but it’s obvious she has Elisa’s best interest at heart. Jenkins, gives his character a great deal of heart and humor. And just like Elisa, he hasn’t felt like he’s ever fit in anywhere, so its understandable why the two would become good friends.
Meanwhile, General Zod himself, Michael Shannon is a truly realistic villain. He’s terrifying of course, but he’s also just a guy trying to do his job so his family can move to a better place. In a strange way, Shannon’s character is sympathetic. But by the end of the film, you’ll be asking yourself who the real creature in “The Shape of Water” is.
As I mentioned earlier, “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture and a few other Oscars this month, all well deserved. However, I don’t think enough people have seen this film, and that’s a shame. They’ve probably heard about the scene where Elisa has sex with the creature, but it’s actually not that bad. The people who haven’t seen this movie because of that need to understand this is a love story. Yes, it’s a unique one for sure, but everyone can relate to falling in love.
“The Shape of Water” is one of the most compelling films I’ve seen in years, this film is a masterpiece. One that fans of Guillermo del Toro will enjoy, and general movie audiences should give a chance too.
“The Shape of Water” score: A+